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Four Coloured Cuckoo Bee

Bombus sylvestris

Four Coloured Cuckoo Bee, Forest Cuckoo Bumblebee

A Four Coloured Cuckoo Bee Bombus sylvestris on a leaf


by Sandy Rae. CC BY-SA 3.0

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A Four Coloured Cuckoo Bee is not your ordinary bee (Bombus sylvestris). These bees are parasites, and over time, they've lost the ability to collect and forage pollen on their own. A female cuckoo-bee will invade a colony, and if she's undetected, she'll kill the queen and take over the colony. If the queen of the colony detects the cuckoo bee, she'll order her workers to attack and kill the cuckoo. This cuckoo bee is widespread but is most closely associated with woodland habitats. They parasitise the nests of the Early and Heath Bumblebees.
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They still play a key role in the surrounding ecosystem.


Adults: Mature bees are large. Males are about 1cm whereas females are double that. They mimic the hosts, which are most commonly the Early Bumblebees. The queens possess a thick yellow collar. They possess a buff-yellow band of hairs, followed by a mixture of black and brown on the tail. Males are more variable. Sometimes the whitetail can have some black hairs whereas some other males seem more yellow.











Europe, the UK and Ireland

Biological treatment

It's not suggested to treat gardens for bees. Help bees by planting pollinator-friendly flowers or cut down on the use of harmful chemicals used in the garden.

Chemical treatment

It's not advised to treat plants whilst in flower.


These bees tend not to forage too much, however, will still have a tasty drink or two once emerged from development to initiate egg production. They're attracted to nests that belong to the bee species B. pratorum.
A close up of a Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum on a flower

Early Bumblebee

Bombus pratorum

Some blue Hyacinthoides hispanica flowers

Spanish Bluebell

Hyacinthoides hispanica

Common bluebell

English Bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Helleborus foetidus

Stinking Hellebore

Helleborus foetidus


Digitalis purpurea


Symphytum spp.

Common Knapweed

Centaurea nigra

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